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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, July 2004

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MATERIALS -- Power to Saturn . . .

This month's arrival at Saturn of the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft following a seven-year voyage was made possible partly by work done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The spacecraft's instruments are powered by generators that convert heat from plutonium-238 fuel into electricity. ORNL developed and fabricated the protective cladding, iridium alloy clad vent sets, to encapsulate the fuel. The iridium alloy "clad vent sets" are resistant to heat and impact and are designed and tested to remain intact even during an unplanned reentry during the spacecraft's 1997 launch or subsequent gravitational-assist flybys -- a safety feature required by the project. NASA remains an ORNL customer: The iridium alloy-clad vent sets have been used in other deep-space missions (such as Voyager, Galileo and Ulysses) and will be present on the future NASA missions, including the Pluto New Horizons mission planned to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. [Contact: Bill Cabage, 865-574-4399; cabagewh@ornl.gov]

PHYSICS -- Old in the tooth . . .

Methods routinely used by Oak Ridge National Laboratory health physicists to do radiation measurements are helping University of Tennessee researchers determine the age of anthropological finds. A Dosimetry Applications Research Calibration Laboratory team is using radiation testing equipment to date finds such as a bovid (horse or cow) tooth found near an ancient human tooth on the island of Java, Indonesia. By testing the bovid tooth, researchers can determine the age of the rare human tooth while still preserving it. They conservatively estimate the tooth is 500,000 years old. The ORNL team dates sample components such as quartz, feldspar or tooth enamel by doing radiation dama
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Contact: Bill Cabage
cabagewh@ornl.gov
865-574-4399
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
15-Jul-2004


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